Looking like they would be right at home in a futuristic science fiction movie, Nooka watches are in a league of their own. You can catch a glimpse of these space age watches with their Dots and Bars design on the wrists of streetwear style icons and musicians like T.I. and Kanye. Founder and Chief Designer of Nooka, Matthew Waldman gives us some insight into how everything from global culture to theoretical physics influence the Nooka brand as a whole, and what is involved in the process of creating a new Nooka design.
Daniel: Matthew, thank you very very much for all the time you’ve dedicated to this interview. There are a lot of interviews with you around the web and asking where all of this began, so let’s take a different approach. You’ve been artistic from an early age – do you still have art that you made in your teen years, and looking at the design, can you see a “NOOKA” in them?
Matthew: I do have some photos of art from my teen years and I do see “NOOKA” in it. I wish I had art from grade school that in memory is very “NOOKA” – I used to sit and design utopian cities on other planets down to recycling plants and how the architecture would affect the behavior of the inhabitants. I made up alien languages and drew plants and animals for their unique ecosystems – it was always a nice combination of trendy/art/nerd. I also drew a lot fish and shoes!
Daniel: You obviously went to school for art, and majored in architecture, but do you think that it is something you need to go to school for in order to do?
Matthew: Really depends on the student/person. I’m a college drop-out, but my financial situation was bad and I didn’t have any adults around to help me navigate financial aid. My after school job in high school was at an art/design supply store, so I started picking up freelance design work from people shopping there at a very young age. I was always obsessed with new technology and had no problem learning things on my own. If someone is interested in design and isn’t exposed to the industry, of course school is the best thing. Lucky for young people now, so much information is on the web and software has amazing tutorials. That said, design is a language, and like spoken language, some people can pick it up by being in the environment, other people require training.
Daniel: What originally sparked “NOOKAFESTO”
Matthew: My goal with NOOKA is to create a brand that creates physical manifestations of ideas. Without a written set of core values, I would need to micro-manage every project, so I wanted a conceptual check-list my designers and collaborators could refer to. Without this frame-work, there is brand-drift. The NOOKAFESTO is also a work in progress – actually thinking of a re-working now!
Daniel: The first NOOKA watch was designed for Seiko, but contains material that haven’t been seen in todays collection of NOOKA. Do you think the revolution of NOOKA will see some of that?
Matthew: Actually, we’ve worked in the same materials from the first licensed iteration, but I’m more interested in applying new material science to future models than what we’ve done in the past.
Daniel: What inspires a new line of NOOKA?
Matthew: We are inspired by global culture, architecture, delicious food, material science, theoretical physics and contemporary art – gotta take it all in!
Daniel: How long does it usually take to design a watch? Would you look at a sketch you put together in 2005 and say “That would look great in our new lookbook?”
Matthew: It takes a few weeks to design and up to 6 months to prototype and produce. I do like to review old sketches as well.
Daniel: Who comes up with the NOOKA faces and designs?
Matthew: I designed all the faces and most of the forms, but my designer Alex did the “zem” and my boyfriend has designed one bracelet we have in production. I run a very collaborative design lab. Our sunglasses are a great example of this – all my design staff at the time contributed to those designs. There is very little I do by myself.
Daniel: How do you know when a project is complete?
Matthew: When all the stock is sold!
Daniel: We’ve spoken about NOOKA being a design lab. What kind of things would you like to see produced by the design lab?
Matthew: Everything from fashion to furniture and eventually genetically build products.
Daniel: You mentioned you’d like to design a dashboard for Nissan cars – how did that come up? Have you tried to talk to Nissan, show them your sketches?
Matthew: It’s just another one of those things that get me going on a rant, the fact that car design seems a bit stuck in neutral or reverse. It would be fun to do a concept car. I don’t have any contacts at Nissan, so it’s just a thought, and really, I’m not tied to any particular car maker.
Daniel: Moving on from design and to technology, how do you see the involvement between design and technology?
Matthew: Design and technology are intrinsically entwined. The steel industry enabled us to change the shape and design of our cities and planet, and the internet changed the way we do business and exchange information. Mobile phone technology has changed the way we interact with the people in our lives.
Daniel: What is the future of product design?
Matthew: Printing products at home with rapid prototyping / 3D printing is the future of product design and it will throw the whole industry into turmoil just like digital music changed that industry. It will force a complete re-think of how to enforce intellectual property rights and put many brands out of business. After that, bio-engineering will be the future and designers will need knowledge of genetics – or at least there will be software to do the translation work.
Daniel: What do you think is a great product design, from the packaging to the product itself.
Matthew: The iPhone is brilliant, not so much the form, but in the innovation in interface design it champions. It has replaced phones, walkman/portable music devices, home stereo systems, and even laptops for many people and this fact is lost on most people – it’s incredible eco-friendly by consolidating so many functions in one device. I am in constant awe of how it changed my life.
Daniel: In your opinion, does design have to go together with marketing?
Matthew: Yes. Design is a business and no one is going to pay your bills if the products don’t sell.
Daniel: What is your involvement nowadays with design, marketing, (seminars, conferences) what do you do besides NOOKA?
Matthew: I used to teach every semester, but now I am too busy with NOOKA. I do guest lecture spots at a few design schools, am always involved in someway with Tokyo’s design week [design tide] and with shows concurrent with design week during ICFF in NYC. I write for a japanese online fashion magazine. I recently judged the live design event, Cut&Paste. The list is quite long…
Daniel: What are some coming attraction for NOOKA?
Matthew: We will launch a smaller sized version of the watch line, do more collaborations with artists and animators, expand the sunglass line, and hopefully launch a patented concept in luggage design.